Tag Archive for Virtualisation

2015 Top VMware & Virtualisation Blogs

I begin this brief post with a certain level of trepidation, I suspect most likely to due to the inherent discomfort which most Brits feel when discussing the relative qualities of one another’s labours.

I am talking of course, about the annual Top 100 vBlog awards run by Eric Siebert of http://vsphere-land.com and vLaunchpad!

Many hundreds of bloggers around the world spend tens and sometimes hundreds of hours every year producing such excellent content, it is often used not only to augment vendor documentation, but indeed to replace it (whilst at the same time providing keen insight and valuable opinion on the state of our industry)!

I certainly don’t count myself among those individuals, but hope that the occasionally irregular content I find the time to post is of some value to somebody! 🙂

So with that in mind if you’re reading this now, I would encourage you to head over to Eric’s site below and register your votes; it only takes take a few seconds of your time to show some appreciation for the time and effort put in by those ladies and gentlemen who worked tirelessly throughout the year to help make all of our jobs that little bit easier.

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/2032977/TopvBlog2015

Now if only I could convince Eric to spell virtualisation correctly…

Yet MORE Intel NUC Models on the way for your Nanolab!

For those of you who are regular followers of my blog, you will know I am a great proponent of the Intel NUC range for their low noise, low power, low(ish) cost, high performance and most importantly high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) features!

Unbelievably having only just announced their second generation triumvirate of models just 2 months ago (and due out in a couple of weeks), they’re at it again, announcing a third generation already! The new models include a pair of Haswell-based “Wilson Canyon” Core i3 / Core i5 processor options, featuring up to 4 USB 3.0 ports and a full size SATA connector and are expected to land some time around Q3 this year.

I have updated the CPU table with the currently available info on the new models, and will add CPU benchmarks once available on www.cpubenchmark.net (for consistency). This also includes the recently leaked specs for the new Gen 8 HP Microservers based on Intel Pentium / Celeron processors.

GenModelCores / Threads / Logical CPUsClock Speed / Turbo (GHz)CacheMax TDP (Watts)CPU BenchFeatures
1Intel Celeron 8472/1/21.1 / None2 MB17986None
1Intel Core i3-3217U2 / 2 / 41.80 / None3 MB172272None
2Intel Core i5-3427U2 / 2 / 41.80 / 2.803 MB173611vPro & VT-d
2Intel Core i7-3537U2 / 2 / 42.00 / 3.104 MB173766VT-d
3Intel Core i3-4010U2 / 2 / 41.70 / None3 MB152253VT-d
3Intel Core i5-4250U2 / 2 / 41.30 / 2.63 MB153572VT-d
1 (G7)AMD Athlon II Neo N36L2 / 1 / 21.30 / None2 MB12751None
2 (G7)AMD Turion II Neo N40L2 / 2 / 41.50 / None2 MB15946None
3 (G7)AMD Turion II Neo N54L2 / 2 / 42.20 / None2 MB251314None
4 (G8)Intel Celeron G530T2 / 2 / 42.00 / None2 MB351604iLO
4 (G8)Intel Pentium G630T2 / 1 / 22.30 / None3 MB352154iLO

IMHO you cant beat the NUC for its price / performance / noise features mentioned above. In an ideal world I would be happy to give up 2-3cm of extra board size to get some extra RAM slots and a second gig port on the VMware HCL in there, but as a tidy home lab solution they’re hard to beat!

As regards this latest batch of models, I personally still think the sweet spot is with the Intel Core i5-3427U DC53427HYE 2nd Gen model, which includes vPro for remote access, and will turbo to a handsome 2.8GHz for as little as ~£235 when I last checked. More than enough for most home lab requirements!

NanoLab – Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Intel NUC Models Out Soon!

This story actually broke about a week ago, but its been quite a busy one for me so I didn’t get around to posting (other than on Twitter for those who follow me). I thought for people who may have missed it, it would be worth a short post.

In essence, for people who have held out from buying either an Intel NUC or even an HP Microserver for your home lab due to the lack of CPU grunt, good news is on the way! The specs were leaked last week for the new range of Intel NUC boxes due out in Q2, featuring Intel Core i5 and i7 processors. The specs were published by Computer Base and are as follows:

D53427RK - Rend Lake

D53427RK – Rend Lake

D53427HYE - Horse Canyon

D53427HYE – Horse Canyon

D73537KK - Skull Canyon

D73537KK – Skull Canyon

Looking at the new models the best (and most feature rich) for me is the i5-3427U D53427HYE (Horse Canyon – includes enclosure). This model includes vPro / AMT support, a superbly useful feature if you plan to run these machines headless, as I currently do. It seems strange not to include this feature with the i7 version (Skull Canyon – DC73537SY). The i5 is likely to be a little easier on the pocket than the i7 whilst still allowing turbo to 2.8GHz, and with a basic clock speed of 1.8GHz it will hopefully run a little cooler than the i7 (even the i3 chassis can get very warm indeed!). Both models come with USB 3.0 which is unfortunately of limited use, unless you plan to mount a USB drive into your VMs via VT-d which is now also included with both new CPU models.

Comparing the CPUs via their CPU Benchmark scores, we can see that the i5 gives a great performance leap from the older i3 line (DC3217IYE), but not such a great jump to the i7, which also doesn’t include vPro. I have included the scores for the HP Microserver line for comparison:

ModelCores / Threads / Logical CPUsClock Speed / TurboCacheMax TDPCPU Benchmark
Intel Core i3-3217U2 / 2 / 41.80 GHz / None3 MB17 Watts2272
Intel Core i5-3427U2 / 2 / 41.80 GHz / 2.80 GHz3 MB17 Watts3611
Intel Core i7-3537U2 / 2 / 42.00 GHz / 3.10 GHz4 MB17 Watts3766
AMD Athlon II Neo N36L2 / 1 / 21.30 GHz / None2 MB12 Watts751
AMD Turion II Neo N40L2 / 2 / 41.50 GHz / None2 MB15 Watts946
AMD Turion II Neo N54L2 / 2 / 42.20 GHz / None2 MB25 Watts1314

My guess is that two things will probably happen when it comes to pricing. The current line of NUCs will drop their prices a bit, and the new line will probably come in at a higher price bracket. This means a premium for people wanting the extra grunt, but better prices for everyone else! Personally I have not found any issues with the grunt I get from the 1.8GHz i3, especially when running off SSDs (where your bottleneck usually lies in a lab or production!) so I will probably stick with my i3 pair for now… at least until the i5 range become so cheap I feel compelled to buy a couple!

If I hadn’t already invested, I would be sorely tempted to start my Intel NUC lab with the i5 range, but if a key decision driver is cost, the i3 won’t let you down! 🙂

Other NanoLab articles may be found here:
NanoLab Articles

VMware vSphere NanoLab – Part 4 – Network and Storage Choices

Over the past few posts I have gone into the detail on configuring a high WAF vSphere NanoLab, mainly from the perspective of compute. In my case this consists of two Intel NUC nodes, running  dual core 1.8GHz core i3 processors and 16GB of RAM each. The main question people  have been asking me since I published the series is, what do I use for networking and storage?

Prior to the NanoLab, I have always gone for a vInception type of setup, i.e. everything running inside a single powerful workstation with plenty of RAM. This limits your options a bit, in my case it meant simply using local SSD & SATA storage, presented either as iSCSI from my Windows 2008 R2 server  or a nested FreeNAS 7 VM. For a bit of extra capacity I also had a couple of spare disks in an HP Microserver N36L presented via another FreeNAS 7 VM under ESXi.

The most frustrating thing with running your VMFS storage from a Windows host, is the monthly patching and reboots, meaning you have to take down your entire environment every time. In my case this also includes this blog, which is hosted as  a VM on this environment, so moving forward I wanted to have something a little more secure, flexible and robust, which also adhered to the cost, noise and size requirements you might expect for a NanoLab.

Storage

Speed of storage can make or break you experience and productivity when running a home lab. My requirements for a storage device / NAS were:

  • Minimal size
  • Silent or as near silent as possible
  • Low power consumption
  • Minimum 4 disk slots and ability to do RAID 5 (to minimise disk cost and provide flexibility for later growth)
  • Reasonable price

Optionally:

  • VAAI support
  • Decent warranty (if not a home build)
  • Reasonable component redundancy
  • USB3 support in case I want to add any external drives later for some speedy additional storage / backup

After going back and forth between a home-made solution based on another HP Microserver, or a pre-configured NAS, I decided that the additional features available in the Synology “Plus” line were too good to pass up. These include:

  • VAAI support for Hardware Assisted Locking (ATS), Block Zero, Full Copy, Thin Provisioning
  • iSCSI snapshot and backup
  • Link aggregation support for the dual gigabit NICs
  • 2-3 year warranty depending on the model
  • iSCSI or NFS (VAAI on iSCSI volumes only)

They were also recommended by a number of vExperts such as Jason Nash, Chris Wahl and Julian Wood, which is always a good justification to go for one! 🙂

The 1512+ was very tempting, but I in the end I chose the DS412+ due to its near-silent sub-20db operation (thanks to an external power brick and 2 hot-swap silent cooling fans), low power consumption618_348_backup-plans-synology-ds412 (max 44w under heavy load),  minimal footprint and reduced cost. I was tempted to wait and see if a DS413+ comes out any time soon, but Synology are being cagey and I needed the lab upgrades to be done and dusted in a short period. I already have a DS413j which I use for backups, so I can confirm they are very well built little machines, and the noise level claims are indeed accurate!

 

Into the 412+ I have loaded a pair of 240GB SANDisk Extreme SSDs using SHR (Synology Hybrid Raid). This is effectively just RAID1 mirroring when only two drives are installed but gives me the ability to expand out to RAID5 equivalent as I need more space and the price of SSDs (inevitably) comes down. Eventually the box will have around ~720GB or more of useable SSD storage, more than enough for a decent bunch of lab VMs! Another alternative would be a pair of SSDs for VM boot partitions / config files, and a pair of SATA drives for VM data partitions.

Networking

Although you can easily build a great home lab on a flat network with any old cheap switch, the ability to experiment with more advanced features is highly desirable. My requirements for a managed switch were:

  • Minimal size
  • Passive cooling (for silent operation)
  • Low power consumption
  • Minimum of 8x 1 gigabit ports (or preferably more)
  • Link aggregation
  • QoS
  • Security – VLANs, PVLANs, ACLs, & Layer 3 switching
  • SSH access for command line management

Optionally:

  • I am studying for a few Cisco exams over the next year so a Cisco branded router would be preferential
  • Decent warranty

After a great suggestion from Jasper and reading an article by Vladan I ended up going for the ten port Cisco SG300-10.

SG300-10

This 10-port switch will allow for:

  • 1-2 ports per NUC (for 2-4 NUC boxes)
  • 2 LACP enabled ports for the Synology lab storage
  • 2 ports for my personal data storage server (might replace this with a second mid-range Synology NAS later)
  • 2 uplink ports (In my case for a router and a second wireless access point)

This switch is passively cooled, only uses around 10w power, and as an added bonus Cisco include a limited lifetime warranty! Great if you are going to invest that much in a switch for home!

“As long as the original End User continues to own or use the Product, provided that: fan and power supply warranty is limited to five (5) years. In the event of discontinuance of product manufacture, Cisco warranty support is limited to five (5) years from the announcement of discontinuance.” http://www.cisco.com/en/US/docs/general/warranty/English/LH2DEN__.html

If I had been going for a switch purely on cost I would probably have chosen one of the HP models as these have some great bang for your buck, but I did want to stick to a Cisco branded one. I would also have loved to go for the PoE model so I could plug in a VoiP phone later, but the cost for the SG300-10P / MP was at least 50% more, and power consumption would be higher, even when idle.

WAF

The entire NanoLab setup above of 2 NUC boxes, DS412+ and SG300-10 in total take up about the same volume of space as a large shoe box, are virtually silent, and combine for an idle power level of 50-60 watts, and under 100 watts even under load. That’s less than a couple of halogen light bulbs!

In my next post I will go through the process of configuring the network and storage, including link aggregation and suggested VLAN configuration.

Earlier parts of this article may be found here:
NanoLab – Running VMware vSphere on Intel NUC – Part 1
NanoLab – Running VMware vSphere on Intel NUC – Part 2
NanoLab – Running VMware vSphere on Intel NUC – Part 3

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